News Updates


15 House Dems needs to look for another job

David Sirota writes about the 15 Democratic House members who sided with Republicans to pass CAFTA. They include Melissa Bean (IL), Jim Cooper (TN), Henry Cuellar (TX), Norm Dicks (WA), Ruben Hinojosa (TX), William Jefferson (LA), Jim Matheson (UT), Greg Meeks (NY), Dennis Moore (KS), Jim Moran (VA), Solomon Ortiz (TX), Ike Skelton (MO), Vic Snyder (AR), John Tanner (TN) and Ed Towns (NY). Since the bill passed 217-215, a switch of any of those votes would have made it a tie, so each of them can be blamed for casting the deciding vote on the bill that further undermines their party and the US middle class. Sirota has links to their offices if you want to let them know how you feel. He adds:


Let's be clear -- all of these people should never get a red cent from labor unions or the progressive community again, and that goes even for the ones who represent marginal districts. The idea that this was a "tough vote" for a Democrat who represents a swing district doesn't hold water -- no one is getting voted out of office over voting against CAFTA, and voting for American workers. Remember, polls show that Americans are sick and tired of Congress passing these corporate-written "free" trade deals that sell out ordinary workers.

But, let's further break this down. Which of these 15 Members has CONSISTENTLY been selling out the Democratic Party and America's middle class? The way we find that out is by looking at other recent votes on key economic issues, such as the Bankruptcy Bill and the bill to limit citizens' legal rights [in class action lawsuits] and protect corporations that abuse Americans.

Starting with bankruptcy, we get the list whittled down to 12 : Bean, Cooper, Cuellar, Hinojosa, Jefferson, Matheson, Meeks, Moore, Moran, Ortiz, Skelton and Tanner.

Moving to the bill that limits citizens' legal rights and protects corporations that abuse ordinary Americans, the list gets whittled down to 9: Bean, Cooper, Cuellar, Hinojosa, Matheson, Meeks, Moore, Moran and Tanner.

These are the 9 Democrats who are the difference between House Democrats being in the majority and the minority -- they are the people who undermine the vast majority of honest/courageous Democrats who fight for ordinary people in Congress everyday. They are the ones who make it consistenly impossible for Democrats to deliver a message that they are the party that stands up for ordinary working people in this country. The fact is, if Democrats are going to be in the minority for the forseeable future, it would be better if these folks were defeated, because they do more harm than good to a party that desperately needs unity to let America knows what it stands for.

Again, while I have described why it is ridiculous to give a pass to any of these 9 because they represent marginal districts, even if you sort out for that the number barely changes. Winning with 55% or more of the vote is considered crushing an opponent -- and only Melissa Bean falls under that threshold. The 8 others win by 55% or better, meaning they don't even have the pathetic/dishonest "I'm a marginal Member so I have to sell out American workers" excuse: Cooper ( 69% ) , Cuellar ( 59% ), Hinojosa ( 58% ), Matheson ( 55% ), Meeks ( 100% - unopposed ), Moore ( 55% ), Moran ( 60% ), and Tanner ( 74% ). ...

To sum up -- each of these 15 Democrats ought to pay a price at the polls for their brazen sell out tonight on CAFTA. They undermined their party and America's workers. And the 9 Democrats of these 15 that have been consistently stabbing the Democratic Party in the back -- well, they have shown an unfathomable willingness to disregard anything other than corporate campaign cash. They are the reason why Americans are so cynical about the political process, why Democrats can't win key states like Ohio, and, in general, why Democrats are currently in permanent minority status.

In an update, Sirota noted that after his original posting he received emails from Capitol Hill Democrats who didn't like his criticism of Democrats. "The whining and crying is the perfect image of pathetic thumb-sucking weakness that has hurt Democrats throughout the heartland, Sirota wrote.


Clearly, many Democrats still haven't learned anything from people like Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, or the current GOP leadership - even though it is those very people who have emasculated Democrats for the last decade. Their lessons were pretty simple: do everything possible to enforce unity around principles and policies. That allowed them to drive home a sharp message in 1994, and now ram legislation through Congress.

CAFTA will hurt US farmers and drive more immigrants to US

Passage of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in the US House of Representatives late Wednesday night, after Republican leaders held the vote open for 47 minutes to twist arms for the trade deal, puts American farmers, textile workers and manufacturers at risk, while jobs will move to Central American countries with poor records on human rights and few protections for poor families.

"I oppose CAFTA because it is a step backward for workers in Central America and it is a job killer here at home," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who led the opposition. "It creates a race to the bottom that needlessly threatens US jobs. Nothing in this agreement will help raise substandard wages in Central America or help create a strong middle class there. Democrats understand the need to help our Central American neighbors reap the benefits of increased trade, but the costs of this CAFTA are too high with little to justify its deficiencies."

Democrats noted that opposition in Central America is deep and broad because CAFTA does not promote a better way of life. In March, more than 8,000 Guatemalan workers protested against CAFTA; the police responded with tear gas. In El Salvador, tens of thousands protested the agreement; the Salvadoran legislature responded by passing the agreement in the middle of the night with no notice and little debate. In Costa Rica 30,000 protesters took to the streets last fall. And the Costa Rican President announced that his country would not ratify CAFTA unless an independent commission could determine that the agreement will not hurt the working poor.

"This flawed and lop-sided agreement will result in devastating consequences for Latinos here in the United States as well as in the Central American nations," said US Rep. Grace F. Napolitano, chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. "Estimates put the projected loss of revenue to this country at over $4 billion as a result of CAFTA. The impacts will be felt by working families in this country as factories close, and they will be felt in the CAFTA countries as well." Those who are so concerned about immigration to the US from Latin America should look at NAFTA and what happened when the promises of jobs did not materialize in Mexico, she said. "Ten years after CAFTA will we be asking the same question we are now asking about NAFTA -- what happened?"

CAFTA was opposed by a variety of groups, including the American Sugar Alliance, National Textile Association, American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, AFL-CIO, LULAC, NAACP, League of Conservation Voters, Friends of the Earth, Defenders of Wildlife, farm groups (including American Corn Growers Association, the National Farmers Union, National Family Farm Coalition, League of Rural Voters, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund and United Stock growers of America, American Agriculture Movement, Soybean Producers of America, National Farmers Organization), and religious organizations (including Presbyterian Church USA, American Friends Service Committee, American Jewish World Service, Lutheran World Relief, and the Council of Churches of Latin America).

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) said the deal would lead to the destruction of the US sugar program and increase agricultural dumping of agricultural commodities below their cost of production into Central American countries.

“There’s no question that sugar farmers are being sacrificed on the altar of free trade,” said R. Dennis Olson, director of IATP’s Trade and Agriculture Project. “We’ve seen the so-called 'free trade' model fail farmers and rural communities for the last 10 years under the North American Free Trade Agreement. This is another bad trade deal filled with false promises for farmers and workers in all the participating countries.”

As part of ushering CAFTA through the Senate, Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman negotiated a poorly conceived “sugar deal” with the White House that purported to help protect sugar farmers by curbing sugar imports. But the deal would only limit sugar imports for two years, until the 2007 farm bill is completed. And its methods for controlling increased sugar imports would likely lead to either increased dumping of under-priced US crops to CAFTA countries or diverting sugar to compete with homegrown corn-based ethanol operations.

Since the announcement of the Coleman plan, two government reports have raised serious questions. The non-partisan Congressional Research Service questioned whether the U.S. Department of Agriculture has the legal authority to implement the deal and keep imported sugar off the U.S. market. And the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the CAFTA agreement would cost U.S. taxpayers $50 million a year in loan forfeitures by sugar farmers.

CAFTA would force Central American countries to dismantle border protections against agricultural imports dumped into their markets at below cost by U.S. multinational agribusinesses. If CAFTA dismantles these protections, the US could experience another wave of forced immigration of small farmers similar to when NAFTA forced 1.5 million Mexican farmers from their land with increased imports of dumped US corn and other commodities. The Bush administration admitted as much in a promise to send additional funds to CAFTA countries for "rural development assistance,” which will be needed to mitigate the anticipated eviction of small Central American farmers from their land.

IATP has issued three papers on the impact of CAFTA on farmers in the US and in CAFTA countries: "Sweet or Sour? The U.S. Sugar Program and the Threats Posed by DR-CAFTA"; "CAFTA’s Impact on the U.S. Ethanol Market"; and "Analysis of CAFTA Concerning Agriculture". All three papers can be found at:


Labor split not that big

Nathan Newman explains why the split in the AFL-CIO may not be that big a deal.


In a contrarian mood, I think people are making too much of the "split" in the labor movement, as if labor hasn't continually been in internal tussles between unions, whether they were in or out of the same labor federation. 

Yes, a few unions won't be paying dues to the AFL-CIO.

And as for fears this will disrupt unity in political operations among unions, there has never been coordination except when individual unions want there to be. 

See the rest.


'Five in the noggin' kills innocent man

John Gibson of Fox News applauds the Brits' policy of "shoot first, ask questions later," in comments Friday on the plainclothes cops who pursued a man through the London subway system and shot him dead. "My faith has been renewed in the Brits," Gibson said:


Even though they talk a good politically correct game out in public, evidently, behind the scenes they are as ruthless as I would expect from a civilized country under attack by bloodthirsty barbarians who have been brainwashed. ... Turns out he didn't have a bomb, and turns out he wasn't one of the four bombers Thursday. And if it turns out ultimately that he had nothing to do with anything, no doubt there will be hell to pay. But the police say he was linked to the terror probe, so let's wait and see.

Meantime, got to admire the cojones of those Brit cops to go after him like that. All of this trumps any of my other complaints that the Brits weren't making the right noises about fighting terror. They like to go about things a bit more quietly than us. Not my style, but okay, fine — as long as they get the five in the noggin of the right bomber boy. They do that and I'm fine.

So for the moment, alls well. Just catch the four bombers. Five in the noggin is fine. Don't complain that sounds barbaric. We're fighting barbaric.

Now the London police report that the man was a Brazilian electrician unconnected to the bombings. He fled from plainclothes detectives who caught him when he tripped and shot him at least five times point blank, apparently in the belief that he may have carried a bomb in his bulky coat. He was Roman Catholic and apparently was on his way to work.


Kissing the 4th Amendment goodbye

While most attention is being paid to the Rove scandal and the Roberts nomination to the Supreme Court, Billmon reminds us that renewal of the "PATRIOT" Act, also deserves some urgent attention, as al Qaeda and the cowardly leadership of George W. Bush combine to do what the Civil War and two World Wars could not -- make the 4th Amendment a dead letter.

The worst provision, Section 215, allows the FBI to order any person or entity to turn over "any tangible things," so long as the FBI "specif[ies]" that the order is "for an authorized investigation . . . to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities." 

The ACLU notes that Section 215 vastly expands the FBI's power to spy on ordinary people living in the US, including citizens and permanent residents.

The law does not require the FBI to show probable cause, nor even reasonable grounds to believe, that the person whose records it seeks is engaged in criminal activity.  The FBI need not have any suspicion that the subject of the investigation is a foreign power or agent of a foreign power.  The FBI can investigate United States persons based in part on their exercise of First Amendment rights, and it can investigate non-United States persons based solely on their exercise of First Amendment rights. For example, the FBI could spy on a person because they don't like the books she reads, or because they don't like the web sites she visits. They could spy on her because she wrote a letter to the editor that criticized government policy.

Those served with Section 215 orders are prohibited from disclosing the fact to anyone else. Those who are the subjects of the surveillance are never notified that their privacy has been compromised. If the government had been keeping track of what books a person had been reading, or what web sites she had been visiting, the person would never know.

Is Section 215 constitutional? Only if people are willing to call them on it, if the courts will uphold the Bill of Rights. (Unfortunately, Supreme Court nominee John Roberts Jr., in a recent decision of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, indicated he would defer to the president in setting aside constitutional rights in terrorism cases.)

Think Progress notes the difference between Sandra Day O'Connor and Roberts.

Contact your Congressional representatives via ACLU. (Focus on your senators, since it just passed the House. See how your House member voted here.)

See also Societas.


Hoping for another Souter?

Don't count on it. The swing vote on the court will become reliably attached to the right wing and that's bad news for workers, small businesses and libertarians.

Nathan Newman calls John Roberts Jr. a "partisan hack" who worked for the Reagan and first Bush administrations to advance the rightwing Republican agenda. "So if his career is one of years of political hack partisanship, sprinkled with a few years acting as a well-paid hack on behalf of corporate interests, why should we believe Roberts has the temperment to be an independent Justice?"

Jordan Barab at the Labor Blog notes that John Roberts was a big-business favorite, along with fellow appeals court judges Edith Brown Clement and Janice Rogers Brown. Roberts and Clement both were once private practitioners who represented business interests -- experience the Rehnquist court now lacks. "Given their past experience, the thinking goes, both judges might be friendly to corporate America."

The ACS Blog reports that Roberts, as a law student, "argued for an expansive reading of the Takings and Contracts Clauses, something which might suggest sympathy towards the Constitution-in-Exile movement, a movement of political conservatives who favor reinterpreting the Constitution to strike down economic regulations."

According to the Alliance For Justice, Roberts has often represented corporations in suits against private individuals or the government. He represented Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc., in its successful petition to the Supreme Court arguing that a worker with carpal tunnel syndrome is not disabled such that she is entitled to accommodation at work under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Roberts argued that Ella Williams, an automobile assembly line worker, was not covered by the ADA, even though she was fired because carpal tunnel syndrome – which she acquired as a result of activities she was required to perform as part of her job – prevented her from doing all of the tasks required by her job.

The Center for Investigative Reporting reported that in April 2000, Roberts filed an amicus brief on behalf of the National Mining Association in the federal 4th Circuit Court to block a lawsuit filed by West Virginia citizens opposed to the coal industry's destructive "mountaintop removal" practice. Two years later, Roberts was nominated by President Bush and confirmed to the powerful DC Circuit Court of Appeals. In April 2004, as a judge on that court, Roberts ruled against environmentalists who were pushing for more restrictive government regulations over copper smelters--many of whose owners are members of the National Mining Association--that emit toxic lead and arsenic pollutants.

As a judge, according to People for the American Way, Roberts ruled against application of the Endangered Species Act in Rancho Viejo, LLC v. Norton, indicating that he may well be ready to join the ranks other right-wing officials in their efforts to severely limit the authority of Congress to protect environmental quality as well as the rights and interests of ordinary Americans.

The Alliance for Justice fears that his views as indicated by the Rancho Viejo case, "could threaten a wide swath of workplace, civil rights, public safety and environmental protections."

Newman commented that AFL-CIO v. Chao (2005) "upheld most of the Labor Department's punitive reporting requirements by labor unions, but could not demand such reporting from non-union organizations where unions merely elect some representatives to their boards. Roberts in dissent by himself wanted to give the labor department full power over any organization where a union had any representation in its leadership."

Think Progress noted that Roberts was a member of a court panel that recently approved Bush's claim of extraconstitutional authority to seize and hold suspected terrorists or their protectors and indefinitely deny them access to courts or lawyers.

The Supreme Court Nominations Blog has selections from Roberts' judicial opinions. His record on criminal issues is not encouraging to libertarians.

All that said, Max Sawicky notes:


In a world of finite resources, you've got to pick your fights. The Roberts nomination looks like it will be hard to beat. Trying to beat it makes the next one even more difficult, and the next one might be worse. To some extent on social issues, Roberts looks to be an unknown quantity. He might even turn out not awful. On economic issues, he definitely looks bad, but I see little sentiment in the country to support rejection on those grounds. So let it go and move on is my reaction, at this point. Let's get back to anticipating the multiple indictments of White House staff. Let's be getting out of Iraq. Stuff like that.

Not that Senate Democrats should roll over. They should subject Roberts to a vigorous grilling, and not just focus on abortion rights. But Roberts is probably the best choice we're going to get out of the Bush White House.

It appears that the best that progressives can hope for is that in their haste to divert attention from the White House spy scandal, the Bushmasters may have put forward a court nominee who occasionally lets his mind out to think. Also, since William Rehnquist appears determined to stay on the court, hope his health holds out, at least until the next election, when there is at least the outside chance that the Democrats could regain control of the Senate.


No Exit

James McCarty Yeager writes:


No, indeed, let there be no timetable for withdrawal of the American military presence in Iraq. It is a truism that events no more conform to the calendar than emotions do to the clock. Consequently there is both public and bipartisan agreement that the US needs an acknowledged set of objectives that, when met, constitute an exit signal.

On the part of a US administration wholly subjugated to presidential satrap Karl Rove there is much coyly felt, if blusterously delivered, resistance to any formula that might specify its future actions. After all, if they are no better at predicting the future than they have been at justifying their past military adventurism, they may never find a set of circumstances allowing a US departure.

But if this war weren't about oil, the US could say it will leave when the Iraqi water, sewage, telephone, media, medical, police, and fire services, together with the industrial, land transport, shipping and educational systems, are restored to the level of the day prior to the US invasion. (See the rest.)


Howard Dean agrees with George Bush!

Democratic Chairman Howard Dean writes (via MyDD):


Politics drove someone in the White House to do a treacherous, potentially criminal thing: a senior administration official leaked the identity of a covert CIA operative. They endangered the agent's life and compromised our national security in a time of war.

Here's what former president George H.W. Bush said about that kind of crime: "Even though I'm a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors." That's from a speech on April 26, 1999.

I agree. But as it became clear this week that Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove is a subject of the criminal investigation into the leak, the second Bush administration has gone silent. And its operatives have launched a cover-up and smear campaign against anyone raising questions.

This is bigger than politics -- every American should agree that this administration needs to come clean immediately about this leak, and any White House official's role in it. The only way to pressure this administration is to show that Americans will not tolerate this -- and that every American regardless of party will unite and publicly demand that they come clean:

(Read more)


Labor needs unity

Stewart Acuff, organizing director of the AFL-CIO, writes in the 8/1/05 Progressive Populist:


The Bush administration is doing everything it can to crush workers from having power over their working conditions and any kind of organized voice to thwart the corporate agenda. It is assaulting the very institution of collective bargaining.

In creating the Department of Homeland Security, they denied collective bargaining and a voice at work to 180,000 Federal workers. Now George Bush is canceling collective bargaining for 750,000 in the Department of Defense, a move that, if not stopped, the administration will force on every federal agency.

The freedom to form unions and bargain collectively is a fundamental human right reflected in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948; it's part of every international covenant dealing with workers' rights. Our government not only fails to protect that human right but is explicitly trying to crush this right for America's workers.

Here in the US, over 20,000 workers were fired or discriminated against for union activities in 2004 alone, according to National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) annual reports.

That amounts to a worker in this country being fired or discriminated against every 23 minutes for exercising the basic human right to form or join a union.

When faced with an organizing effort, 90% of American private-sector employers hire anti-union lawyers and consultants to frustrate and undermine the will of workers.

More than three-quarters of these employers require workers to sit in mandatory 1-on-1 supervisory sweat sessions.
Half of these employers threaten to shut down the facility, and fully one-quarter of them illegally fire workers, according to Cornell University scholar Kate Bronfenbrenner.

The worst part is that our government is complicit with the denial of our basic freedom to form unions and bargain collectively.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) process forces workers through a meat grinder. It is a process riddled with excessive delays, insignificant penalties to deter unscrupulous employers from violating the law, and an unfair election process that puts workers through hell and back simply for trying exercise a basic human right.

In almost half of all instances in which workers vote to form a union, they are denied any initial collective bargaining contracts within two years, according to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services.
It is so bad that Human Rights Watch says that our nation is in violation of fundamental and internationally recognized human rights standards for failing to protect the rights of workers in this country to freely form unions.

The NLRB election process is so unfairly skewed to benefit employers that a vast majority of workers decided to opt out of the process and use a majority sign-up agreement (card check) instead.

Yet, the Bush Board is also attacking the right of employees and employers to mutually agree to this fair process, undermining the very method that workers used most often when the National Labor Relations Act was passed in 1935.

Under such an organized and cynical attack on workers and their unions at every level, unity within our movement has never been more important.

See the rest.


On the bombings in London

We agree with Greater London Authority Mayor "Red Ken" Livingstone, who said: "I want to say one thing, specifically to the world today — this was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful.


It was not aimed at presidents or prime ministers, it was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners, black and white, Muslim and Christian ... young and old … that isn't an ideology, it isn't even a perverted fate, it is an indiscriminate attempt at mass murder.

They seek to divide London, they seek Londoners to turn against each other ... this city of London is the greatest in the world because everybody lives side by side in harmony. Londoners will not be divided by this cowardly attack.

I know that you [terrorists] personally do not fear to give your own life in exchange to taking others ... but I know you do fear you may fail in your long-term objective to destroy our free society ... in the days that follow, look at our airports, look at our seaports and look at our railway stations ... you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world, will arrive in London to become Londoners, to fulfill their dream and achieve their potential … whatever you do, however many you kill, you will fail.

Read the whole statement.

(Tip from MaxSpeak)


Spy 'outing' probe targets White House coverup? notes that it's beginning to look as if the investigation of the White House role in "outing" Valerie Plame as an undercover CIA operative on weapons of mass destruction has turned into an investigation of perjury and/or obstruction of justice -- that is, the cover up. So far, the mainstream media does not seem much interested, even after MSNBC political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell said on the McLaughlin Report Friday and wrote in the Huffington Post Saturday that Time magazine's emails, surrendered under court order, revealed that Karl Rove was Matt Cooper's source. (See the video at Crooks and Liars.)

Saturday evening, Newsweek reported that "the emails surrendered by Time Inc., which are largely between Cooper and his editors, show that one of Cooper's sources was White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, according to two lawyers who asked not to be identified because they are representing witnesses sympathetic to the White House. Cooper and a Time spokeswoman declined to comment. But in an interview with NEWSWEEK, Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin, confirmed that Rove had been interviewed by Cooper for the article. ..."

UPDATE: Greg Saunders opines:


Considering the enormity of the nuclear proliferation threat that we currently face and the fact that this leak happened in the middle of a war that was ostensibly about stopping the spread of WMD's, Karl Rove deserves nothing less than to join Benedict Arnold and Julius Rosenberg in the history books as men whose names are synonymous with "traitor". And anyone who helped cover up for these crimes should join Rove in jail or on the gallows. This not only means the occupants of the West Wing (every one of whom should be subjected to a polygraph test) but the partisan cowards in Congress who have shirked their constitutional duty in order to protect a treasonous scumbag.

As far as the right-wingers are concerned, I'll be eagerly awaiting your condemnation of Rove. Considering how quick you are to judge any liberal criticism of the execution of these twin wars as "undermining the war effort", you're now faced with evidence that one of the most powerful Republicans in Washington actively worked to undermine the effort to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Motives are irrelevant (both Rove's for leaking and yours for helping cover-up). If you're serious about the very real threat of terrorism to the United States, then you've got to be honest enough to admit that spreading the name of CIA agents through the press could seriously harm our ability to stop terrorists from getting their hands on nuclear material.

Still waiting for more evidence? Well, let's just hope the smoking gun against Karl Rove and his accomplices doesn't come in the form of a mushroom cloud...

James Wolcott remembers that Michael C. Ruppert, author of Crossing the Rubicon, last June wrote "Coup D'Etat", which "weaves a spider's web connecting Valerie Plame, the Niger documents, George Tenet's resignation, Peak Oil, Ahmed Chalabi, and Bush and Cheney's decision to secure lawyers in the Plame inquiry."


Senate approves CAFTA; fight moves to House

The Senate on June 30 voted 54-45 to approve the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

Lori Wallach of Global Trade Watch was hopeful the pact could be stopped in the House.


Because the proposed CAFTA expansion of NAFTA to six additional nations faces stiff opposition in the House, its supporters pushed for a Senate vote first, given that the Senate typically provides easy approvals of any and all trade deals. CAFTA’s narrow margin of approval in the Senate is the antithesis of momentum.

The Senate margin of approval for this NAFTA expansion (54-45) is the tightest Senate trade vote in the past dozen years, showing the depth of opposition to the NAFTA model that has been built by 11 years of living with NAFTA’s negative impacts. NAFTA’s 61-vote Senate passage in 1993 was the tightest previous Senate trade vote.

A majority of House members, including a significant number of Republicans, now oppose CAFTA while another sizeable bloc of GOP House members remains uncommitted. The Bush administration, having failed at selling CAFTA on its merits, is trying to make “deals” to buy votes. However, wariness about constituents’ lingering anger over damaging U.S. trade policies and the past record of deals-for-trade-votes not being fulfilled has made this ugly process less effective. 

Pacts like CAFTA are no longer just about tariffs and quotas, but rather dictate what land use, food safety, drug patent, procurement, environmental, energy and other service policies signatory nations must implement.

Since the effects of NAFTA began to confirm the fears of citizens across the nation who fought against its passage over a decade ago, these activists and the communities they have educated and organized have made their concerns clear to elected officials, and will continue to do so over the July 4 congressional recess.

Ten Democrats who voted to approve CAFTA include: Bingaman (NM), Cantwell (WA), Carper (DE), Feinstein (CA), Lincoln (AR), Murray (WA), Nelson (FL), Nelson (NE), Pryor (AR), Wyden (OR). Also, Jim Jeffords of Vermont, voted for the trade deal.

Twelve Republicans who voted against CAFTA include: Burns (MT), Collins (ME), Craig (ID), Crapo (ID), Enzi (WY), Graham (SC), Shelby (AL), Snowe (ME), Specter (PA), Thomas (WY), Thune (SD), Vitter (LA).

See the roll call.

David Sirota writes:


Remember, the Democratic Party talks a lot about wanting to reconnect with working-class voters in red states. Yet, almost a quarter of its Senate Caucus just kicked those working-class voters in the face with this vote. Let's hope when CAFTA moves to the House, Democrats put up a better showing.

Contact your representative here.

O'Connor Replacement: Talk About Economic Legal Issues

Nathan Newman writes:


The trap for progressives on the nominations fight for O'Connor's successor is just to talk about abortion and other social issues.   We need to split social conservatives away from their corporate allies and highlight the rightwing ECONOMIC views of potential nominees.

The Supreme Court is the interpreter of legislative statutes and they can either enforce them strongly on behalf of the rights of middle class families or they can give corporations a free pass to loot pensions, poison the environment and violate their employees rights at work. 

We need to wedge the opposition base and, even if some Bush supporters cheer an anti-choice nominee, we should raise questions with them about why that nominee also screws workers in all their legal decisions and never really punish corporations for their wrongdoing.  

Yes, we need to mobilize our supporters but we also need to divide the opposition.  Let's remind people that only a few of the Supreme Court decisions are about hot-button social issues. 

Expand the debate and divide the opposition.  That has to be our gameplan.

Nathan also notes that Big Business knows that case after case decided by the Supreme Court are about bread-and-butter economic issues.

Check out the National Association of Manufacturers Supreme Court review for this last term. A whole mess of cases you probably didn't even hear mentioned in the media but of great interest to corporate America.

Or see this list of cases of interest to the National Federation of Independent Businesses .

We need to emphasize that Bush will be picking a Justice to please these interests, not just the religious right.

28 Dems block crackdown on corporate tax evaders

David Sirota writes:


Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D) [Thursday] night offered her legislation to ban government contracts from going to companies that abuse offshore tax loopholes and evade U.S. taxes. In 2002, DeLauro actually passed this legislation as part of the bill creating the Department of Homeland Security, as Democrats stayed unified, and Republicans capitulated (unfortunately, it was later removed in the final bill). This year, however, 28 Democrats sold out to Corporate America, and helped defeat the legislation outright.

That's right, when DeLauro offered her legislation this time around, she attracted 20 Republican votes - plenty to pass the legislation if her own party had stood up and done the right thing. However, 28 Democrats voted against the legislation, siding with the companies that have the nerve to openly abuse tax loopholes. These companies want to be able to get fat off government contracts, even though they are ripping off U.S. taxpayers at a time of war and record deficits. Yet, instead of prohibiting those contracts from going to these unpatriotic companies, 28 Democrats joined with 203 Republicans to sell out and say bilking America is A.O.K.

Particularly confusing/disappointing was Rep. Rahm Emanuel's (D-IL) vote against DeLauro's legislation. He actually penned a 2003 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal where he advocated "an aggressive attack on the tax code" that "should start with corporate expatriates" (you can also see the op-ed here). He rightly chastised President Bush for "block[ing] Democratic efforts to stop American companies from incorporating through a postal drop in island tax-havens" and said he was appalled that "some corporations are actually rewarded with federal contracts while they move their corporate headquarters to Bermuda" - the very thing that the legislation he voted against would have stopped.

Emanuel also trumpeted himself as a great fighter against these loopholes, telling the Christian Science Monitor that "I think we should be the party of tax reform, massive tax reform, because the code is skewed to those who have lawyers, accountants, and people who can think of schemes. I know of no middle-class family that sets up a shelter in Bermuda to pay for college education for the kids." Yet, his vote against DeLauro's legislation puts him on the side of those who support rewarding these companies that abuse tax loopholes with government contracts.

Once again, a simple question hangs in the air: Do Democrats really wonder why America thinks they stand for nothing, and why they are thus in the minority? On almost every core economic issue lately, a handful of Democrats betrays the party and undermines any prospect of developing a message that shows Democrats will stand up for the middle class.

See the roll-call vote (note: Dems are in italics).


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